A Travellerspoint blog

Taiwan

Kenting

trashy paradise

The whole point of this trip was to go for a SCUBA. Since Kenting was billed as a main tourist area, I thought it would be easy to find a PADI place, that information would be readily available, and that I would be able to find a nice, clean beach, and move around easily.

I was way off.

It was easy to get TO, but not AROUND. I found a cheap hotel, and set out to find a beach towel, the Internet, and a dive shop. In a beach town, I found ONE dive shop in the entire town. One. And assuming you had your own equipment (I do not), the price was reasonable. To rent theirs, it cost an extra $100. Disappointed, I resigned myself to just lying on the beach. Tough break, I guess.

I ran into my friend and his girlfriend, and it was nice to see a familiar face.
The next two days I stayed in the area and found a small beach close to my hotel. Unless you have your own transportation, you can't get around anywhere outside of Kenting. The beach I found nearby was empty while the sun was out and had nice umbrellas with chairs set up. The water was also surprisingly clean and clear, considering that the beach was full of trash and smelled awful.

My last day I rented a scooter. That opened up a whole new world to me. I ran into my friend and his gf, and we went up and down the coast looking for a new beach. They found one, and I decided to keep on my own. I went past the point (of no return? no, but close!) that I had been earlier in the day to the east and ended up seeing some pretty amazing coastline.

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Fishermen

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The cliffs at one stopping point

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More cliffs/dunes

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A small inlet where there were people kayaking

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A nice bridge that cost $10NT to cross (about 20 cents)

If I hadn't been able to rent a scooter and see this nice area off the coast, I would have said that Kenting was a bust. It was until that point. It must just be that the area doesn't really have a lot of resources for the tourist industry. I was expecting more...more information, more communication, more transportation, etc. I was also hoping to find a nice beach, but none were found.

The next day, I went back to Taipei via Kaohsiung, where I met a nice Canadian girl in my hostel.
Overall thoughts on Taiwan: I kept hoping that it would magically turn into Vietnam, then when I learned that it never would, I had a better time. I came home with some interesting little trinkets, a bit of a sunburn, and the need to vacation after vacation.

So for those of you who continued to read about Taiwan, through the shoddy reports, thanks and I hope you enjoyed yourselves!

Posted by lrbergen 22:54 Archived in Taiwan Comments (0)

Anytown, Taiwan

day in kaohsiung

-17 °C

I left the chaos of Taipei for a more serene time in the south of Taiwan. My whole plan was to go for a scuba to add in my book, and I had heard that Green Island was the best. As planning went on, I got lazier and lazier and opted for the tourist (trap?) area of Kenting. My Lonely Planet was about 3 years out-of-date, so I had to work with a lot of guesswork and minus the HSR (High Speed Rail) that had recently been completed. I decided to take the regular line to Kaohsiung and take a bus to Kenting town.

The train ride was fun...6 hours, but at least I wasn't one of the unfortunates who had to stand most of that way. I'm not very good at planning and chose my ride at night, to get into Kaohsiung at midnight (with no hotel, and no view of Taiwan along the way). I chose a hotel close to the station, to save on time and sanity. It was decent...clean, but old and seemingly something straight out of a horror movie (the bathroom reminded me of "Psycho," except there was no shower curtain).

I set out when daylight hit to explore the town...from the guide, there wasn't a whole lot to see. And how.

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Guitar shop

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REAL bubble tea...not the kind you get that tastes like a fruit shake.
This is authentic...only $2US.

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An electricity box.

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Street

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Sweaty me and the "Love River"

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You can't make this stuff up.

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A spiral structure

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People hanging out by the river

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Part of the walkway, riverside

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A mosaic near a really dump-y tire store

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Another street, around rush hour (I had forgotten it was Monday)

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Typical cheap, delicious restaurant

I didn't really see any sights...just the river and the night market, which was somewhat similar to the one I went to in Taipei.
There were some strange things, like garbage trucks that played music like an ice cream truck, and people who have probably never seen a white person in real life (those people hanging out by the river...and a lady who forced her grandson to wave at me for approximately 5 minutes), and virtually NO OTHER TOURISTS. It was also hard to find information in English. But I feel like I got an impression of Anytown, Taiwan.

Overall, it was a nice break from tourist-y spots.

continued in Kenting...

Posted by lrbergen 17:05 Archived in Taiwan Comments (0)

Eleven Years Behind

Thirteen hours ahead...

-17 °C

I just got back from Taiwan, a whirlwind trip of 8 days where I tried to jam-pack an entire culture into everything I did, which has left me in a daze.

I arrived in Taipei to neither hustle nor bustle, and after 15 minutes of struggle, I finally found an English-speaking cab driver to take me to an overpriced hotel. After looking in Lonely Planet (which was sufficient, but not nearly as helpful as the one for Vietnam), I made a list of destinations.

* Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial - built in honor of the former dictator and leader of the KMT, who revamped the education system and infrastructure while biding his time to fight against the Communists in mainland China (say THAT 5 times fast!). Everything was huge, reminiscent of Communist structures...but not.

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The gate to the entrance.

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The memorial from afar. Unfortunately, it was undergoing renovation and I couldn't go inside. Bummer.

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Boy chasing pigeons

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An artist sketching the Memorial's gardens.

Overall, it was impressive, though I am disappointed that I couldn't go inside anything. The garden was lovely.

* Longshan Temple - a multi-denominational temple, with lots of impressive ornate dragons. The temple is open to the general public, but I felt very disrespectful. Imagine people came to your place of worship and took pictures of you trying to worship. I tried to stay out of the way as much as possible.

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It was hard to get a good picture at night, while trying to be invisible.

* Snake Alley - the name for Taipei Hwahsi Tourist Night Market. Its nickname comes from the few shops that have real snakes that are used for their blood (mixed with a liquor for virility). There's much more, though. There is an overabundance of food (some questionable, others delectable), jewelry, sex shops, clothing, electronics, etc. There isn't nearly enough time to see everything.

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These were all over the walls of the covered area.

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Jewelry.

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Live snakes. We would later see the unpleasant sight of the man skinning them. Disturbing.

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Dried squid.

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A man had this little creature as a pet and he let me feed it a cherry on my arm. I look really frightening in this picture.

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People playing arcade games.

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Very fresh seafood.

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Lots of food.

I enjoyed Snake Alley...a nice girl I met, Eve, and I had dinner for about $6. Delicious!

* National Palace Museum - this museum has the most extensive collection of Chinese art than any other in the world. It's a bit overwhelming, seeing something that is over 6,000 years old. And seeing lots of it. Apparently, all of the artwork was held in the Forbidden City in Beijing.

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A girl blowing bubbles near Shilin Station.

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The grounds of the Museum.

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Stairs leading up.

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Trashcan.

The museum was overall impressive, but after about an hour, it got to be overwhelming.

* Taipei 101 - billed as the tallest building IN THE WORLD (up until a week ago, that is...Dubai has one that is a mere 4 meters higher...dang), it also has the fastest elevator in the world. The observation deck is on the 89th floor and costs $450NT ($15US)...for $100NT more, you can climb up and go to the outdoor observation deck on the 91st floor. Impressive.

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From a couple blocks away.

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View of Taipei from inside.

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View from outside.

I'm bummed I didn't get to it a week and a half earlier...but still, now I've been in the 2nd highest building in the world...

There were other fun sights around Taipei, stumbled upon en route.

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View from the subway, called the MRT.

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Inside the Hello Kitty store...trinkets galore.

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Graffiti near Shilin Station.

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A row of blind people giving serious massages outside of Longshan Temple.

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This was in a small neighborhood near Taipei 101.

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Giant chess set on the corner.

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Polite, eh?

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Typical Taipei Street.

...to be continued in Kaohsiung!

Posted by lrbergen 19:30 Archived in Taiwan Comments (1)

Chiang Kai-Shek

china in a really hot, tropical, bustling micro-form

overcast 37 °C

Well greetings from Taipei, where I literally feel like I am wasting away from the sweat. It's bleedin' hot here....I feel like I'm swimming through the air.

A few things:

- Hostelling International? Brilliant. A cheap, clean bed for about $15 a night. Granted, the last time I stayed in a hotel, it was the same price, but a 2-star in Vietnam. But that was Vietnam. Taipei is not Vietnam. Everything is booked for this holiday...who knew there would be so many Koreans migrating to Taiwan's capital?

- The National Palace Museum is incredible. It contains the artwork confiscated by the Chinese government and held in the Forbidden City in Beijing. Or I just made that up....but I'm pretty sure I read it somewhere. It's amazing to realize how short America's history when compared with nearly 6,000 years of artifacts, pottery, and other handiwork. The grounds are beautiful as well, and for about $5 entry. There are 3 floors, 2 filled with the museum's permanent display, and one with the temporary.
My favorites: tiny tiny, fingernail-sized ivory boxes connected by chains, carved with intricate designes, with each link independent of each other.
Seventeen concentric ivory balls, all carved from the same piece of ivory.
The grounds...palm trees, shrubbery, and huge ornate buildings.

- Taipei is nothing like I've ever seen before. It reminds me of Fukuoka, HaNoi, and Seoul all in one. But really, it's completely different. Don't let me fool you.

What I don't like is the lack of planning on my part, but really that's my own fault. I wasn't too excited about my destination and didn't really try too hard to plan. Bad idea. All I care about is the beach and going for a SCUBA. That's it, that's all.

So tomorrow, I'm headed off on a 6-hour slow train ride to Kaoshiung in the south, close to Kenting National Park, where there is supposedly scuba. Hopefully my 11pm arrival will still give me some leeway to get a room.

Posted by lrbergen 02:20 Archived in Taiwan Comments (0)

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